Emma Watson’s UN speech

Earlier this summer, Emma Watson was named a U.N. Women Goodwill Ambassador. Though the ripples of her involvement over the past few months can be seen online (crashing the U.N website, using Twitter to denounce a sexist politician in Turkey or respond to the gender politics of the recent celebrity nude photo hack), Watson’s power in person is an entirely different matter.Emma Watson spoke at a special event for the new HeForShe Campaign. In her speech Watson she called upon listeners – and men and boys in particular – to commit to ending gender inequity.

Watson’s talk has received tremendous press, and with good reason. She delivered a thoughtful and passionate argument about the need for gender equity. Her words were impressive, but so too was how she delivered them.

She could have described its mandate, raison d’etre and goals. Such a speech – which could have been written by a UN staffer – would have been adequate yet uninspired. Instead she found her own voice and shared her personal experiences that led to a growing self-awareness about gender inequity. Rather than quoting statistics or reading UN corporate-speak she talked about how she:

“…started questioning gender-based assumptions when at eight I was confused at being called ‘bossy,’ because I wanted to direct the plays we would put on for our parents–but the boys were not….When at 14 I started being sexualized by certain elements of the press….When at 15 my girlfriends started dropping out of their sports teams because they didn’t want to appear “muscly.”

Of course there have been negative responses to her speech because of those who wish to silence a voice of experience and a woman who is so influential for the young generation that she captivated with her acting career. However, Emma Watson does not plan to stop her message anytime soon. Even U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon joked, “She’s been waving a magic wand. I hope you use your magic wand to end violence against women!” But with her serious approach to advocacy, it’s impossible to laugh off Watson’s message.


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